I always have lemons in my fridge. The bright acidic quality of lemon juice adds a fantastic oomph to food that you just can’t get with other kinds of acids. Lemon also pairs well with pasta, chicken, and roasted veggies. I also often have limes on hand because they’re perfect for brightening up Mexican and Thai dishes.
Of course, it’s not always convenient to have a bag of lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits in your fridge. If you only cook for one person or two, they’re likely to go bad before you can use them, and a lot of citrus fruit can be quite expensive at the supermarket.
So what’s a foodie to do? Grow your very own citrus plants at home! It’s easy to germinate citrus seeds right in your kitchen. They’re not only delicious, but they’re also healthy!
What you need for success
Before we dive into how to germinate citrus seeds, it’s important to note that most citrus fruits don’t do well in cold climates. If you plan to grow citrus indoors, you’ll need a spot that gets a lot of sun. You should also plan to water and mist your fruit tree regularly, but never ever overwater. Waterlogging the roots of a citrus tree is one of the quickest ways to kill it.
Many citrus tree varieties are excellent container plants and easy to grow inside. If it’s warm enough in the summer, feel free to move your trees outside for some sun, fresh air, and rain. Opt for dwarf varieties if you’re growing inside or in a small outdoor space.
How to germinate citrus seeds
Did you know you can germinate citrus seeds from the fruit you buy at the grocery store?
To sprout those seeds, remove them from the flesh and soak them overnight. Soaking the seeds helps break down the thick coating that prevents water and air from getting inside.
After soaking, it’s time to plant the seeds. Pop them in some potting soil. Make sure your potting soil is moist—if it’s too dry or wet, your seeds won’t sprout, so you’re looking for a middle ground. A general rule when planting any kind of seed is to set it to a depth that corresponds with the seed itself. Small seeds, like carrot seeds, for instance, require shallow sowing. Larger seeds, like those of citrus or squash, need to be sown a little deeper.
Use plastic wrap, or a seed starting dome to cover the potting soil. This helps retain moisture. Set your potted seed somewhere sunny and warm.
Once the seed sprouts, remove the plastic. At this phase, too much moisture can create problems.
To promote continued growth, feed your lil’ citrus plant every once in a while with a balanced fertilizer. Thankfully, there are quite a few citrus-specific fertilizers on the market, which makes it easy to identify the right formula for your needs.
Citrus fruit trees will take some time to bear fruit, and it largely depends on the type and variety of citrus. Once fruits appear, they also take a while to ripen. Don’t pick fruits until they’re ripe. Unlike tomatoes, they won’t get any riper after being picked.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer gardening in zone 5b. She is a certified Square Foot Gardener and has taught various garden-related workshops. When she’s not digging in the dirt or writing, she’s cooking up fresh produce, running, or listening to her favorite podcasts.